Oven-Baked, Stovetop-Browned Meatballs

Oven-Baked Meatballs

The Spruce

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 23 mins
Total: 43 mins
Servings: 5 servings
Yields: 15 meatballs
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
522 Calories
40g Fat
10g Carbs
29g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5
Amount per serving
Calories 522
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 40g 52%
Saturated Fat 9g 43%
Cholesterol 122mg 41%
Sodium 573mg 25%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 29g
Vitamin C 3mg 15%
Calcium 113mg 9%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 416mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The biggest challenge with meatballs is achieving the perfect amount of brownness on the outside while ensuring that they're cooked all the way through. And of course, browning them adds a lot of wonderful complex flavor to the meatballs, so you definitely don't want to skip this step. Fortunately, browning meatballs are just the sort of thing a cast iron skillet is perfect for since you can get it nice and hot to do the browning and then transfer it directly to the oven to finish cooking.

If you're making spaghetti and meatballs, you can be simmering your sauce while the meatballs are in the oven, then add the meatballs to the sauce to let the flavors of the meat suffuse the sauce. One thing we don't recommend is simmering the sauce directly in the cast iron pan. That's because tomato sauce is acidic, and it can react with the iron and give the sauce a metallic flavor.

Another tip for browning meatballs: if you make them perfectly round, they'll be harder to brown because perfect spheres have a relatively little surface area to come in contact with the pan. If you shape your meatballs slightly oblong, and just barely flatten them a little, they'll brown more completely. You'll still have to roll them around a bit with a pair of tongs, but not as much.

Ingredients

  • 1 large slice sourdough bread, crusts removed, or 2 slices regular white bread

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, or whole milk

  • 1/2 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1/2 pound ground beef

  • 1/4 pound ground pork

  • 1/4 pound ground veal

  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  2. Cut the bread into cubes and combine it with the milk in a bowl. Mash it up until it forms a thick paste.

    bread and milk mashed together in a small bowl
     The Spruce
  3. In a heavy Dutch oven, add 1/2 teaspoon oil and heat over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Remove from heat and set aside so that they have a chance to cool.

    Onions and garlic sautéing in a pan
     The Spruce
  4. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat with the egg, cheese, and parsley.

    combine meat and seasonings
    The Spruce 
  5. Add the bread mixture and the onion-garlic mixture and combine until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. We find our bare hands are best for this.

    meatballs ingredients combined in a bowl
     The Spruce
  6. Gently form the mixture into meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Don't pack them too tightly. If you make them slightly more oval-shaped rather than perfectly round, browning them will be a bit easier.

    Formed meatballs in a bowl
     The Spruce
  7. Heat about 1/2 cup of vegetable oil to your Dutch oven. You'll want about 1/4 inch of oil in the pan.

    Meatballs in hot oil in a pan
     The Spruce
  8. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs and brown them for about 10 minutes, rolling them around with a pair of tongs so that they brown evenly all around.

    Browned meatballs in pan
     The Spruce
  9. Remove the meatballs, drain excess oil onto paper towels, and then transfer them to an oven-safe dish or the wiped clean Dutch oven.

    Meatballs draining on paper towels
     The Spruce
  10. Bake the meatballs in the oven for another 10 minutes or until they are cooked through.

  11. Enjoy!

How to Store and Freeze

  • Store leftover meatballs in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • You can also freeze cooked, cooled meatballs for up to 1 month. Defrost in the fridge before using and reheat in the oven, a pan, or simmer in hot tomato sauce.

Tips

  • Don't simmer sauce in the cast iron pan.
  • Shape the meatballs very gently. If you pack them at all tightly, you'll end up with meat rocks instead of meatballs.
  • We like to use half a pound of ground beef (ground chuck is our favorite) and a quarter-pound each of ground pork and ground veal. But you can use equal parts (1/3 pound of each) if that's easier. Or you could skip the veal and just use half beef, half pork.

What Is the Best Way to Brown Meatballs?

You can brown meatballs in the oven or in a skillet. For the crispiest exterior, use a heavy skillet with hot oil. You can finish cooking in a simmering sauce or the oven.

What Is the Best Oil For Frying Meatballs?

Use a neutral, high-heat oil for frying meatballs, such as canola or vegetable oil.